A new leader of the Kingsburg Police Department was sworn in Monday, Feb. 2, and will officially be introduced today at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 4, during a regularly scheduled City Council meeting.
Chief Neil Dadian was selected to replace retired former Chief Jeff Dunn. Dunn retired in May 2014. Drew Bessinger served as police chief until a replacement was found.
Dadian, 56, was selected following a series of interviews with a five-member professional panel consisting of five local police chiefs and a five-member panel of community leaders, according to City Manger Alex Henderson.
Chief Dadian, who retired in 2013 as a sheriff’s captain with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, has 32 years of law enforcement experience.
“Our interview panels were impressed not only with Neil’s qualifications and years of experience, but also his demeanor, energy and leadership style,” Henderson said in a press release. “Given how closely we work with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, his ability to work hand in hand with them was also a great plus.”
The Recorder emailed Chief Dadian a list of questions to provide readers with additional background about his life and career.
Q How would you describe your leadership style?
A Flexible. A good leader never adopts one style but instead adapts their style to the situation. My default style is participatory. I like the employees to have a say in how we achieve our goals and objectives. I have good ideas but allowing everyone on the team to participate and offer input always produces great ideas. When employees have a say in how things get done, they have buy-in to the process and take a greater degree of ownership for completing the objectives. This is how I prefer to operate. It is a rare case when I need to be autocratic. These are usually emergency situations or time sensitive situations. However, even my many years as a SWAT commander I rarely had to operate in this style. I always had good sergeants who were thinkers and problem solvers and their input was invaluable is resolving the situation.
Q Did you grow up in Fresno? If so, which part of the city?
A I was born in Coalinga and lived there until I was almost 4 when my parents moved to Fresno. We lived in the Mayfair area for about a year and then moved about a mile away to the Millbrook and Shields area near the old Valley Children’s Hospital. My family lived there until all the kids were grown and out of the house.
Q Your parents’ names? How many generations of Dadians have lived in Fresno?
A George Dadian and Fern Kathleen Clark. My father grew up on a farm outside of Sanger and my mother spent most of her childhood in Coalinga. My grandfather was an immigrant from Armenia and he escaped the Ottoman-Turkish genocide and came into the United States via Canada. He settled for a short time in Wisconsin, which has a large Armenian population, and came out to California after marrying my grandmother, whose Armenian family had settled in Fresno County a generation prior. My mother’s people were Irish immigrants who settled back east and then came to California during the gold rush. I take great pride in both my Armenian and Irish heritage.
Q You retired in 2013 as a sheriff’s captain. What made you decide to get back to law enforcement?
A I had a great career at the Sheriff’s Office and stayed well past when I could have retired. Most people look forward to day when they can retire. I saw it as a nuisance and chose to ignore it. I felt that I was making a contribution so I kept on working about five years past when I was eligible to draw my pension. Eventually I realized that I had advanced as far as I was going to and that others needed a chance to advance and achieve as well. At some point you just need to get out of someone else’s way, so I did.
I spent 2014 teaching at Fresno State and at the police academy at Fresno City College. During the summer I was able to travel to Ireland and England with my daughter and to Barbados with my wife, as well as some local travel. But, I still have more to offer. When the position in Kingsburg came open, it just felt like the right fit. I had a great break, but I am not ready to leave the profession I love just yet.
Q Will you be moving to Kingsburg?
A No, for two reasons. My wife works in Fresno and her daughter is still in high school, and the economy has not recovered to the point where it makes economic sense for me to sell my home.
Q What initially drew you to a career in law enforcement?
A As a boy growing up I was always interested in a career in law enforcement or the military. When I was 16, I learned about the Explorer Scout program at the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office and joined. I was immediately hooked. I wanted a life of adventure, or so I thought. I eventually came to realize that really what I wanted was a life of service; it just came disguised as an adventure.
Q How many men and women officers make up KPD?
A KPD has 12 full-time sworn officers and five full-time professional staff. We also have four reserve officers and about 10 non-sworn volunteers.
Q Do you anticipate any new hires?
A I have not had an opportunity to take a deep dive into the budget or discuss with the city manager future needs. Only 12 full-time sworn officers and four full-time dispatchers is bare-bones for any police department and the women and men of KPD deserve a tip of the hat for their ability to meet the needs of the citizens with minimal resources. Conducting a staffing analysis will be a priority.
Q Did you have mentors along the way?
A Yes. Nobody does this on their own. I had people invest in me and guide me along the way. I greatly appreciated their efforts and am ever mindful that my debt to them is to pay it forward. I have mentored several people myself.
Q Do you have any friends or family connected to Kingsburg?
A No family for me but my daughter’s grandparents live in Kingsburg and I have several colleagues and friends from the Sheriff’s Office who call Kingsburg home.
Q What do you view as Kingsburg’s top priority when it comes to crime and crime prevention?
A Residential and commercial burglaries and vehicle thefts. These are all attackable crimes and will get my immediate attention.
Q Which high school did you attend?
A C. L. McLane High School in Fresno, class of 1976.
Q Did you earn any scholarships for college?
A No scholarships. I worked while attending and paid my way. [He has a bachelor’s degree and master of science in criminology from Fresno State.]
Q The city has been looking for a replacement for Chief Dunn since last May. How did you hear of the search to fill the position?
A Several friends notified me when the city announced that the position was open including Chief Dunn.
A I have been married to my wife, Dawn Francique-Dadian, nine years this March. Dawn has a daughter who is in her senior year of high school. I have a daughter who is a graduate student in San Francisco.
Q Growing up, who were your heroes?
A I read a lot as a kid so I had heroes across the spectrum, from sports figures to medieval knights, to military and political leaders.
Q What was your first job?
A I was a shoeshine boy at a local barbershop. I would work there after school and on Saturdays. When I got a little older, I worked for my dad who had a farm equipment manufacturing business.
Q Do you have any hobbies or follow any sports teams?
A My favorite hobby has always been reading. Even as a kid, I loved to read and spent countless hours in the library. I use to follow football when I was a kid and I could tell you almost anything you wanted to know about the Oakland Raiders during the 1970s. Today, I watch or attend a few football games or other sporting events during the year, but I have too many responsibilities to keep track of sports teams. My life was devoted to real-life issues and never found time to keep track of people who play games.
Q Residents are proud that they live in a community with a reputation for having a low crime rate. Under your leadership, how will you continue to keep the residents feeling safe in their community?
A The citizens of Kingsburg have a right to be proud about the quality of life in their community. It is not just the low crime rate but also the contributions of civic groups and individual citizens who have positively affected the quality of life. My job is to take crime fighting to the next level and advance the public safety mission. People will feel safe if crime is down and they are not victimized. The feeling of being safe needs to be backed up by the reality of low crime.
Q Did you ever consider a different career?
A Once I decided that I was going to make law enforcement my career, I jumped in with both feet and never had a desire to change or look at other professions. I am fortunate that I have two teaching outlets to pass on what I have learned and experienced, but teaching is my avocation and law enforcement is my calling.
Q Will the department get any new equipment this year?
A Patrol cars are a critical need. Chief Bessinger has obtained three used cars from other jurisdictions and has worked up some information on the purchase of some new patrol cars. It will be my responsibility to complete that task.
Q Favorite book?
A I cannot limit my response to just one book. So, here are a few of my favorites: “Lead On! A Practical Approach to Leadership” by Rear Admiral Dave Oliver Jr., US NAVY; “It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy,” by D. Michael Abrashoff; “War as I Knew It,” Gen. George S. Patton Jr.; “Once an Eagle,” by Anton Myrer; and “Corps Values: Everything You Need to Know I Learned in the Marines,” by Zell Miller, governor of Georgia. Anything written by Tom Clancy or W.E.B. Griffin.
Q What do you enjoy about living in the Central Valley?
A I love the agriculture. I think orchards and crops are beautiful. When I was in the Sheriff’s Air Support Unit I loved flying over the Central Valley and looking at all the agriculture. It is an awesome sight from the air and truly a thing of beauty. We are also in the middle of the state and getting to other parts of California is relatively easy, so our location is a plus.